Charity for Sale.

Everyone is Wearing Charity This Fall…

I am a marketer. It really is that simple. Unfortunately, I have found that marketing for non-profits isn’t always that cut and dry.

A recent Wall Street Journal piece echoed my frustrations sentiments. Entitled, Why Can’t We Sell Charity Like We Sell Perfume?, the author pondered what would happen if we ran AND perceived charities like businesses. Five points were highlighted:

1. We allow the for-profit sector to pay people competitive wages based on the value they produce. But we have a visceral reaction to the idea of anyone making very much money helping other people.

2. A second area of discrimination is advertising and marketing. We tell the for-profit sector to spend on advertising until the last dollar no longer produces a penny of value, but we don’t like to see charitable donations spent on ads.

3. A third disadvantage for charities is the expectation of a home run on every at-bat. If Paramount Pictures makes a $200 million movie that flops, no one calls the attorney general. But if a nonprofit produces a $5 million community fundraising event that doesn’t result in a 70% profit for the cause, its character is called into question.

4. A fourth problem is the time frame during which nonprofits are supposed to produce results: immediately.

5. Finally, the for-profit sector is allowed to pay investors a financial return to attract their capital.

It made me think, how in the world are non-profits supposed to save the world with such ridgid expectations? Further (and perhaps the silver lining to the cloud), non-profit marketers have to be even more nimble given these rules and that, in the end, has the potential to make them even better at thier craft. I always tell my interns, “ladies, if you decide to go off into corporate. you’ll be golden. You’ve been trained to make something out of nothing.” This is my idea of making light of the sad state of affairs.

I wonder with the rise of B-Corporations, will the non-profit industry be forced to change its old-school ways. I guess we’ll have to see.

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